Lawrence M. Walsh
JOLIET – The first group of wheelchairs and those pushing them stepped off at 10 a.m., stopping briefly to mug for a camera before heading out to complete their walk.
Residents and others participated in Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County’s 1-mile Alzheimer’s walk, enjoying temperatures in the 70s and an occasional light breeze.
The Friday, Sept. 21, walk, ahead of the Oct. 6 Will County walk at Rock Run Forest Preserve, was the brainchild of Charlotte Mather, Admissions and Marketing Coordinator, and Danette Krieger, Activities Director.
“I’m always amazed at the things that Administrator Becky Haldorson and her staff do with the residents,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “They do so much to keep the residents active and a part of the communities the seniors helped build.”
“We’ve thought about doing a walk here at Sunny Hill for years,” said Mather. “We wanted to get more of our residents involved.”
She said it was getting harder on the six to eight residents who would attend, requiring them to get up early to get to the annual walk on time. In addition, the last few years were a little cool and drizzly, making it uncomfortable for Team Sunny Hill members in their wheelchairs.
In comparison, 40 residents participated in the Sept. 21 event. Each resident was pushed in a wheelchair by a staff member, volunteer or family member on the nearly 1 mile route around part of the Health Department, behind Sunny Hill and down and around the parking lot and back in the front door.
Some, like Ursula Markowicz, who has called Sunny Hill home for almost a year, had never seen the backside of the building. After her lap, she stayed outside near Mather.
“I loved it,” she said. “I just like getting out.”
Marcowicz is already looking ahead to 2019. “I hope (they do it again),”
Halfway through the walk, on the backside of the facility near a wooded area, there was water and juice for those wanted some and for the first hour – cheerleaders!
Pam Terry, a job coach with the Joliet Central Transition Center, said she brings a group of young people ages 18 to 21 to Sunny Hill twice a week.
“We come to Sunny Hill every Wednesday and Friday and do activities. This is our job today,” she said as Destiny McDonald beeped a horn and Noah Baker pointed the way while shouting encouraging words. Gabe Galicia, Erika Vallejo and Erika Gutierrez also cheered the walkers on.
Mather explained the Sunny Hill event was an open walk, meaning participants could go at any time between the set hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. That made it easier for those who wanted a leisurely breakfast or early lunch. It also made scheduling easier for those who accompanied the residents.
Before anything was scheduled, however, Krieger pushed a resident in a wheelchair to ensure that it was a safe route for the walkers.
“That’s the most important thing – our residents’ safety,” said Mather.
Between donations at Sunny Hill, online contributions and the 50/50 raffle, for which dedicated residents had sold tickets for the two weeks leading up to the event, Team Sunny Hill raised $1,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Sunny Hill Nursing Home is under County Executive Walsh’s office. For more information, go to www.willcountyillinois.com or visit Sunny Hill on Facebook.